So, how do you top a few days like that? You don't, basically. Sometimes you just gotta get things done. It was hard to think about anything apart from the “now” in Joshua Tree as the senses were far too occupied, so trundling through the town of Yucca Valley was good in a way as it let me think about the route to LA, what we'd do there and of course...what next? I did take the time to pop in and see Stacy of the Hi-Desert Star, who wrote a great article that was to cheer me up the next day! Here's a link: http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_c1860026-b37d-11e6-b9a8-47268f2aa00e.html. The rest of the day was pretty non-descript to be honest, running down the busy Highway 62, with some impressive mountains looming in the distance that I was crossing my fingers we weren't going over (cue hasty map check at next stop – all good. Phew!) and trying to avoid getting squished by trucks on a road that I'm not sure I was meant to be on… Nads had a bit of a run in with some gas station owners (all very calm, of course) who wanted to know why she was parked there (despite having bought something from the store), which ended as the reason arrived in the form of a beardy man. We made a hasty exit and just got to the end, which was a similarly unremarkable crossroads if it wasn't for the fact that we were now at the base of said hulking rock (San Gorgonio Mountain) and surrounded by hundreds of wind turbines. A pretty unsatisfactory sleep was on the cards at a super busy truck stop 5 miles down the road, but I did get to meet the lovely Joanne, who'd don a huge USA round trip in an RV the year before, who kept bringing me refillable Dr Peppers as I wrote my last blog, so all was not lost. Keep moving Rob, not far now.
Start: Crossroads of Palomar Avenue and Yucca Trail. Finish: Jct of Highway 62 and Pierson Boulevard. 18.99 miles
Today was the second part of our day off strategy, where we split a big day's miles into two days. Nads hates this, as it isn't really a day off, but it allows me a break when needed and we'd now decided on our planned arrival into LA and well...we've just been going too fast, so we were allowed it! The short day planned turned to be a blessing in disguise as the wind was colossal. 35-40mph and of course, in my face. I didn't grumble as I've had a bit of luck with the wind, with huge tailwinds for a few days in New Mexico AND I was only doing 15 miles today. I took a bit of an off-road route through the huge wind farm in the area and it cast me back to Indian Mesa in Texas where there seemed to be understandable local opposition, due to the dominance of the oil industries and I wondered if it was different in California. I did find it intriguing that many of these farms seem to be on American Indian land, and wondered what the people who lived there thought of the visual appeal of these goliaths in the desert. I personally think that even in areas of natural beauty, they add something positive of their own and seeing as they're helping us preserve the environment and therefore the appearance of it for years to come I think they're worth the cost. I did a bit of reading about the environmental cost of turbines, including bird deaths and while the numbers are high, they're dwarfed by deaths by normal power lines, cars and worst of all by cats, who are responsible for 8 BILLION bird deaths a year in the USA. That's insane. Anyways… running. The trail was really quite fun while it lasted, with the swoosh swoosh of the turbines still audible through the Leonard Cohen and a dust storm, requiring me to wear my shades and pull my Buff over my nose and mouth, though eventually it ended near the I-10, where Nads was concerned about Jenny tipping over, such was the strength of the wind.
Our finish for the night was the Morongo Casino RV Park and I was keen to try out my roulette system that was so successful when I went to Vegas, that it only lost me $160 within 20 minutes! I passed the site of the “World's Largest Dinosaurs”, or at least I think I did, with my eyes streaming. Two huge concrete dinsoaurs, a T-Rex called Mr Rex and a Brontosaurus called Ms. Dinny that you can actually go in and featured in the Tears for Fears video “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. Tune. Apparently it's now a Creationist museum. Go figure. Dark grey clouds were rolling in as I rocked up, with the nearby mountain tops obscured, making for some fantastic light conditions for Nads to take photos. Soon, it absolutely poured down. I'd dodged it and was very smug, sitting in the warm RV as the rain bounced off the roof. It meant that despite a shuttle bus, we couldn't bring ourselves to head to the casino, which is probably for the best as I may have ended up losing my Team Panda Vest on the tables.
Start: Jct of Highway 62 and Pierson Boulevard. Finish: Morongo Casino RV car Park. 15.22 miles
By the morning the rain had stopped but it was still really windy and I got kitted up with a long-sleeved top, wind-stopper gilet and a light jacket, as protection, which would have been fine if that was all the weather we were going to get. The clouds waited until I was just far away enough from the RV not to want to go back and then it started. Soon I was soaked through and getting a litle cold, so my mood didn't exactly improve when I got stopped at a security barrier about 2.5 miles in telling me that this was an Indian Reservation and I couldn't come through. My protestations that I was English and on a crazy adventure fell on deaf ears and I was told I'd have to take my chances with the only road that was available to me, my old pal, the I-10, which of course I'm not meant to be on. My bacon was saved by finding a storm drain that went under the road and led to a service track on the other side. The rain was still pouring down, so the dry pass, filled with huge numbers of sheltering tumbleweeds was fine by me, until I wondered where exactly the storm water in the hills would be heading very soon! I was running along the rail tracks, dodging puddles when I had to answer the call of nature (all that running water) and found myself inexplicably dancing to Tame Impala when it came on just after, as if the rain had made me dance retrospectively – I don't dance, BTW. I'd warmed up, my mood was better and I started to enjoy the rain. Finding Nads in the town of Banning, which was probably the start of the built-up sprawl of LA afforded me the chance to get into some better gear. Nike had supplied me with their Storm Shield jacket, (I chose the XL women's one as it was red and a better colour than the blue or black men's one, for road visibility) and I checked it out for the first time, as I've just not needed it so far. I hate running with jackets generally as I get really hot, but this had underarm vents, rear vents, good pockets, a hood that doesn't blow back or block your vision and these awesome flaps on the cuffs that let you hide your hands like mittens. Seeing as I'm talking about it now, I may as well tell you that this is one of the best bits of kits I've ever had and kept me 100% dry and barely sweating all day. A happy, dry (top half) Rob is a Rob who can think straight and this burst of weather had come just at the right time, allowing me to think that I'm going to need to up my kit game for next leg and get some more gear for weather like this.
A slight lull in the urban vista took me through the San Timoteo Canyon, where I had the sad sight of seeing a recently deceased Labrador at the side of the road. He'd been neutered so someone would be missing him, but he had no collar. I spent the next half hour knocking on doors and later phoned at the vets and shelters in the area, but no-one had inquired about him :( I told Nads about him when we next met, which was following an olfactory delight of a road through orange groves and eucalyptus trees that made me feel like I was in a branch of Lush! We “acquired” a couple of windfall oranges that I've only just remembered about now (I'll let you know…) and as if by magic, the clouds cleared, revealing the San Gabriel Mountains, which take us all the way to LA. Another winter's day, another night time finish, with our truck stop stop at the Royal being regally thwarted by the owner, meaning that we had to treat ourselves to the Motel 6 next door. Suits me, sir.
Start: Morongo Casino RV car Park. Finish: Truck stop 35.64 miles
This was it now. We were in a city. I wasn't quite sure if it was LA at the time (it isn't), but it felt like the LA I recognised from Terminator 2 with me passing over huge storm channels that you could just imagine a Mack Truck chasing a kid on a bike down and we passed in the vicinity of the derelict steel plant that formed the scene for the battlefield at the start. Tomorrow I was to see a pretty decent replication of the storm drain scene, though there wasn't much chasing going on, more cleaning and a short cut being taken! With me being so close to the finish, it meant that the Guns n Roses track “You Could Be Mine” was the Tune of the Day, obviously. San Bernardino Avenue was bang straight, which should have made for easy running, but it was the start of my frustrating relationship with traffic lights and crossing roads. Hardly anyone walks anywhere in America, as car is king, so if you catch yourself at a crossing and the lights have just changed, get ready for a long wait. It's hard to build any sort of a rhythm up and when you're stood at a junction looking at a shop that you know sells fizzy drinks and donuts for two minutes straight, you know that they'll be on the agenda in the third minute. It was not long after I'd finished said snack that I heard a kid shout “Run, Forrest, Run” at me. I was wearing my BubbaGump cap and amused, called him over, but my voice sounded more shouty than I'd anticipated and he seemed a little bit scared as I approached! I pointed at the cap and he couldn't believe it. Following up with my start point in Alabama ensured he was suitably mind blown and fortunately not scared any more! This kid must have been 12, tops and it's crazy that he recognised the cap and knew the film so well, when it isn't recent or to be honest, the sort of film that I thought kids today would be interested in watching. Such is the appeal, I guess.
I'd left Nads to head to the RV park and did a big final stint of 15 miles, which ended in a delightful mile long uphill and a proper uphill at that. At least I had something good to look forward to at the top, as there was an amazing view across the lake and we'd been joined by our good mate Alex, who'd made a trip from the UK combining a visit with a conference on neuromuscular disease, as you do. We reassured him that this view and the high quality of the park was not necessarily the norm on the trip and that when later in the night, we saw two skunks attacking our bin that hung around for a photo opportunity that live mammalian wildlife was not on the standard agenda either! We headed into town after a slap up Jenny dinner and were expertly advised on the local craft brews by Marvin. Somehow I ended up drinking a Flying Dog Double IPA which clocked in at 11.5%. Oh well, it's all calories and I'd need them for tomorrow. Tomorrow, we head to the BIG city. Surely nothing could go wrong now?
Start: Royal Truck Stop. Finish: East Shore RV Park, Pomona. 30.89 miles
Total: 2178.19 miles